FleshFactor FleshFactor


FleshFactor: Flesh (hold the Factor)

A E C  F O R U M - "F L E S H F A C T O R"
On first hearing the name of this forum, "FleshFactor", I must admit 
the hair on the back of my neck bristled a bit. The title calls to mind 
recent crazes of science fiction... direct brain-to-net interfaces and 
immortality through consciousness scans... stuff which makes for a 
diverting read perhaps, but which is sadly, neurotically escapist if  
taken seriously. 

I am enheartened to see that, so far, the FleshFactor submissions 
show little enthusiasm for body-denial sci-fi scenarios. If anything, 
there seems to be a very healthy regard for Flesh in all its non-virtual
forms. The discussion seems to be centering around Nature, and how
it can help us understand what is happening on the Internet. 

The illumination works both ways. In fact, I believe the MOST
important way the Net can inform us is in the way it leads us back 
to Nature... not by its content, but by the way it WORKS.  With its 
bewildering mix of "hard" data and fantasy, insight and deception, 
all functioning at cross-purposes, the Internet reminds me of an 
illustration that Gregory Bateson used to describe cultural sanity: 
One tidal pool contains a multitude of species, most of them hardly 
noticeable, with all species engaged in activites ranging from mutual 
consumption and competition to cooperation. Another tidal pool, its 
fragile ecology once disturbed by an outside influence, now holds 
only a few hardy species.  Bateson regarded the first example to be 
a "sane" pool; the second one, "insane".

If Bateson is correct, and I believe he is, then a "sane" ecosystem 
displays not so much a condition of "anarchy" as  "panarchy". 
Every creature, in every crack, has influence upon the everyday 
workings of the system. On a political level, panarchy cannot be 
legislated, because legislation requires some sort of heirarchy.  
It just happens. The best we can do is RESPECT it when and while 
it happens.

The Internet at present verges on healthy panarchy. There are also 
a thousand ways it can go insane. Perhaps its many cross-purposes 
can co-exist for awhile. But whether the Internet grows wild, mutates, 
or gets paved over, may it point us to the greater internet... the one 
we call Nature.

Norman T. White
Durham, Ontario, Canada

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